Institution of Higher Learning in Film Studies was established in 1958 through a merger of the State Acting School and the State Film School. In 1970 the syllabus of the schools was expanded to include television and today it is known as The National Film School in Łódź.
Since 1949 the school has had its Film Production Centre, in which students work on their practical assignments and diploma projects. Alumnus Andrzej Wajda said of the school,
The history of the Łódź Film School is a rare contradiction of Norwid's pessimistic vision. In 1945 a group of amateur filmmakers from pre-war START was given a chance to act - and did not waste it. They not only created Polish post-war film industry by opening subsequent production facilities in Łódź, Wrocław and Warszawa, but also - and more importantly - created the Film School without which our cinema would have had no future.
From the very start both of the Łódź theatre and film schools, trained actors as well as film directors and cinematographers have flocked to hone their craft. The first students of the film school were offered instruction in both directing and cinematography, choosing their line at a later stage. Film expert Kazimierz Lewkowski wrote:
The two schools were still operating independently, but students knew each other very well. They would often walk from Gdańska Street (where the State Acting School was located) to Targowa Street (where the Film School had its premises), some to visit their girlfriends, others to watch films, talk about art and technique – in other words, to have conversation.
Leon Schiller, the prominent Polish theatre leader, was the first Chancellor of the then-named State Theatre School in Warsaw with a seat in Lodz. Schiller modified the school's syllabus and introduced education-crowning diploma performances. In 1949 the school was moved to Warsaw and the State Acting School was established in Łódź. The Chancellor from 1950-1952 was Kazimierz Dejmek, the founder of Łódź's Teatr Nowy, and Halina Gallowa, Jadwiga Chojnacka, Janina Mieczyńska and Emil Chaberski were its most noted teachers. Jan Machulski and Jerzy Antczak were among the school's students in the 1950s. Like in other Polish theatre schools, teaching was based on the Stanislavsky method, developed at the Moscow Art Theatre. Kazimierz Lewkowski writes,
Jan Machulski says that referring to method verities contained in Stanislavsky's writings saved them from the impersonal, administratively imposed Socialist Realism, for the Stanislavsky system was treated as a natural process of role preparation by a professional actor who has consciously chosen the method as a tool of creation.
After Socialist Realism was decreed the only correct artistic doctrine, the school, along with the entire country, was subjugated to political pressure. If the school did not win the battle for creative freedom, it put up a strong resistance to political indoctrination. This was helped by pre-war professors that included film historian Jerzy Toeplitz, film directors Wanda Jakubowska and Antoni Bohdziewicz, documentary filmmaker Jerzy Bossak and cinematographer Stanisław Wohl. Film expert Jacek Korcelli writes,
Many of them could offer us an invaluable thing besides their knowledge and talent: a sense of internal freedom, carried over from pre-war Poland. This freedom soon became a short supply commodity, and shortly a rationed one. Some of our teachers, including the top ones, were connected with the authorities, but I think they nonetheless understood that young art needed an area of freedom.
The first students of the Film School included outstanding directors and creators of the 'Polish film school' : Andrzej Munk, Andrzej Wajda, Janusz Morgenstern, Kazimierz Kutz. The school also turned out the documentary filmmakers Kazimierz Karabasz and Andrzej Brzozowski as well as the creators of Polish art of cinematography: Jerzy Wójcik, Witold Sobociński, Mieczysław Jahoda, and Wiesław Zdort.
The school was considered an oasis of freedom in Poland's post-war artistic and cultural life attracting many personalities. Teachers and students showed interest in the European avant-garde, the Theatre of the Absurd, and Witold Gombrowicz and Franz Kafka. The school became one of the few places in Poland where one could see the masterpieces of the world cinema, the European classics, and the latest pictures of Italian Neorealism. The showings attracted crowds of students of the Film and Theatre Schools as well as people from the outside, with stuffy rooms bursting at the seams with jam sessions (which were banned in those days) organized to fill the stifled walls. Musicians included Krzysztof Komeda-Trzciński and the students of the Film School, Jerzy Matuszkiewicz and Witold Sobociński.
After the 'thaw' of October 1956, Jerzy Toeplitz was appointed Chancellor of the Film School. A distinguished film historian and essayist, Toeplitz had taught at the school from its inception and was its director in 1949-51. In 1931, he co-founded the START Association of Art Film Lovers with Wanda Jakubowska, Stanisław Wohl and others and subsequently worked in the UK.
In 1958 the Theatre and Film Schools in Łódź merged, opening new opportunities of work in film for prospective actors.The school's two departments, acting and directing & cinematography, began to co-operate more closely in the framework of the so-called integrated training. Designed by Teoplitz, it involved simultaneous mastering of film techniques and technology, broadening of knowledge in the arts, and integrating practical activities with theoretical classes.
In the mid-1950s another generation of students came to the school, among them Henryk Kluba, Roman Polański, Janusz Majewski, Andrzej Kondratiuk and Jerzy Skolimowski. Roman Polański's Two Men with a Wardrobe catapulted the school's major foreign success, receiving an award at the 1958 Expo exhibition in Brussels. By the late 1950s and early 1960s the Łódź school had won acclaim not only in Poland but also abroad. The school became a true phenomenon, its method of training proving highly successful and its graduates turning out major independent artists. The legend of the school continued to grow. Beginning in the early 1960s its students could make television films. In 1964 the Andrzej Munk Award for debut was introduced and its first winner was Jerzy Skolimowski (for Walktower). At that time the school witnessed the birth of an attitude of artistic negation of the realities of communist regime-era Poland. Its students included the future authors of the 'cinema of moral disquiet', notably Krzysztof Zanussi and Krzysztof Kieślowski, as well as Marek Piwowski and Wojciech Marczewski, the outstanding documentary filmmaker Marcel Łoziński and cinematographers Adam Holender, Sławomir Idziak and Edward Kłosiński.
The events of 1968 were a severe blow to the school. As the witch-hunt was launched against Jews, the authorities dismissed its Chancellor and one of the founders, Jerzy Toeplitz. Several other professors and students were forced to leave Poland. In the early 1970s Toeplitz received an invitation from the government of Australia and soon became one of the creators of Australian national filmmaking, co-building Australia's first film school. In 1993 the Lodz school awarded him an honorary doctorate.
In the 1970s the school was recovering its equilibrium and a number of new talents arrived. The Directing Department students included Feliks Falk, Filip Bajon, Piotr Szulkin, Juliusz Machulski, Janusz Kijowski, while the Cinematography and TV Productions Department had Zbigniew Rybczyński, who would win the Academy Award for the short film TANGO in 1983 (the other winner of the Academy Award educated at the school is Andrzej Wajda, honoured for lifetime achievement in 2000). The school was then joined by Wojciech Jerzy Has, the reputed director and teacher who would become its Chancellor in 1990-1996. It also started to attract international acclaim as its students began winning prizes and mentions at international festivals in Oberhausen, Mannheim, Munich, Cannes, Tel Aviv, New York, Huesca, Angers, Poitiers, Krakow and Lodz. Meanwhile a new trend in actors' education emerged at the Acting Department in the 1970s, putting value on spontaneity or 'super-expressiveness' of acting, with considerable focus on body training, physical fitness and stage skills.
The turbulent start of the 1980s did not leave the school unaffected, as 'no dominant trend could have easily been singled out. This must have been in line with the spirit of the times', wrote Maria Kornatowska in a descripiton of the Directing Department. 'New Age has marked its presence, but its irrational element was not strong.' Meanwhile the school continued to develop interesting artists. Directing was studied by Dorota Kędzierzawska, Władysław Pasikowski, Jan Jakub Kolski, Mariusz Grzegorzek, Małgorzata Szumowska, Łukasz Barczyk, and cinematography students included Piotr Sobociński and Paweł Edelman.
In 1990 the then Chancellor, Profesor Henryk Kluba founded the Film Studio INDEKS. It produced commercially and artistically viable films such as Dorota Kędzierzawska's Devils. Prior to that, in 1982, Chancellor Kluba recruited former school students and top cinematographers Witold Sobociński and Jerzy Wójcik as teachers, confirming the school's tradition of maintaining inter-generational links. Other former students of the school became its faculty members, notably Kazimierz Karabasz, Andrzej Brzozowski, Andrzej Munk, Janusz Morgenstern, Grzegorz Królikiewicz and Mariusz Grzegorzek, to mention just a few. The teachers combined excellence in teaching with work to help students to stay in touch with the outside world and the film circles.
Versatility was another distinct characteristic of the school. Students had the opportunity to work with leading representatives of other arts and humanities. Their teachers included the theoreticians of film Bolesław Lewicki and Aleksander Jackiewicz; the historian of science and technology, Polish-Russian relations and film Władysław Jewsiewicki; theoretician and historian of literature Stefania Skwarczyńska; painters Jerzy Mierzejewski, whose contribution to educating future cinematographers was enormous, and Krystyna Zwolińska; prose- and scriptwriter Piotr Wojciechowski; theatre directors Bogdan Hussakowski and Zbigniew Brzoza; and many others. The school's training method has influenced the way the cinematographer's job is perceived and treated: as that of a co-creator's of the moving picture, sometimes equal to the director's.
Since 1952 the Film School has also trained film production managers and television production managers. The department's teachers included Antoni Bohdziewicz, Jerzy Mierzejewski, Jerzy Toeplitz and Stanisław Wohl, as well as the pioneers of Poland's production management Ludwik Hager and Zygmunt Król, and later Wiktor Budzyński and Edward Zajiček. The syllabus has always covered both economics and management as well as humanities. Today the studies focus on management, allowing students to work from the very beginning with directors, cinematographers, TV producers and actors.
The school currently has four departments: Direction, Cinematography, Film and TV Production, and Acting. The alumni of the latter include a number of popular and famous film and theatre actors, such as Pola Raksa, Janusz Gajos, Elżbieta Starostecka, Barbara Brylska, Mariusz Benoit, Artur Barciś, Zbigniew Zamachowski, Cezary Pazura and Wojciech Malajkat. The School also conducts a bachelor's and master's course in scriptwriting, which is a specialisation of the Direction Department. Since 1983, the school has been the organiser of the School Theatre Festival, previously known as the National Theatre School Diploma Performance Review. Since 1993 it has also organised the MEDIASCHOOL International Film and Television Schools' Festival.
Works cited: 'The Leon Schiller State Film, Television and Theatre School' in The Leon Schiller Film, Television and Theatre School in Lodz in 1948-1996: Anniversary Book, ed. Jolanta Lemann, Łódź 1998
Dean Zofia Uzelac, Ph. D.
Cinematography and Television Production Department
Dean Elżbieta Protakiewicz, , Ph. D.
Film and Television Direction Department
Dean: Filip Bajon, Ph. D.
Film and Theatre Arts Organization Department
Dean Roman Sawka, Ph. D.
Information as of August 2016.
Państwowa Wyższa Szkoła Filmowa, Telewizyjna i Teatralna im. Leona Schillera
ul. Targowa 61/63
Phone: (+48 42) 63 45 800
Fax: (+48 42) 674 81 39
Prepared by Monika Mokrzycka-Pokora